Oakland is a place of constant transformation. The landscape has been evolving into something different, something current, something well, happening, for quite some time now. Late night clubs, fabulous dining options, and delectable food truck offerings are appearing all over the City like dandelions whose seeds have blown carelessly to wherever the errant winds have blown them.
Which brings me to my latest adventure, Longitude Oakland. Longitude is a happening little Tiki Bar that has recently set up shop at the corner of 14th and Webster in an art deco building that once housed a custom brassiere maker. Nothing says change quite like that.
Standing outside its exterior, the marbled green tiles and soft, rounded lines of twenties deco might suggest to a visitor something other than what lies within. Only the map-filled windows hint at the building’s true purpose. Stepping inside it’s doors, guests are transported to a time and place limited only by their imaginations. The tropical decor and delicately lighted interiors conjure up far away places ripe with adventure. The promised fulfillment of the gods of the Tiki. A tradition that dates back to the thirties, Oakland isn’t a stranger to the tradition. It was here in Oakland that Vic Bergeron’s Trader Vic’s with it’s signature drink the Mai Tai, first made an appearance in 1936.
Longitude succeeds at bringing its guests to that magical tropical paradise, where worries and work cannot pass beyond its palm-covered doors. The lure of the tropics is alive in Oakland.
The other night I met a friend for a drink at Longitude to check it out for myself. After all, if I can’t take my own advice, I can hardly suggest others do so. When we
stepped inside the gateway to the palmy and oceanic paradise inspired interior we were immediately transported to that other place that is a Tiki bar. We nestled into a corner table, and proceeded to order some adult refreshments. Suzanne Long’s inspired cocktails were a refreshing and complicated delight of mixological mastery.
I had the Firecracker, a sublime blend of spicy and sweet, the cocktail is an inspired mashup of Canton ginger liqueur and vodka, brightened by a hint of lemon, and garnished with pickled ginger. With its rim awash in sesame seeds rather than salt, it’s the perfect way to recover from a hard day at the office. Our lovely companion ordered the Shrunken Skull. Two kinds of rum, a sprinkling of cinnamon, mingled with the blood-red sweet of a house made grenadine. Purr-fection. Hubs had a Black Orchid. Similar to a Mai Tai, in it’s rum based tropical flavors, this drink has Long’s signature all over it. Begin with a house-flambéed rum cordial, brighten the rum up a bit with a little flourish of citrus then seal the deal with a bit of actual rum to round out those flavors. This unique cocktail even features an edible orchid and a hidden gem. Literally, there’s a real pearl nestled in each glass as a souvenir. No need for a complicated treasure hunt featuring swashbuckling Pirates and faded maps with an “X” somewhere to mark the spot. Longitude is the spot. Find it, and you’ve already found a hidden treasure.
With all these lovely cocktails, we were a little hungry, so we tried a few of the table bites, and ordered the Coconut Shrimp and Crab Rangoon. Let’s start with the shrimp. Giant succulent shrimp covered in raw coconut and popped into a deep fry for just enough time to turn them golden and crisp. Each delectable morsel can be savored alone or dunked in the memorably classic sweet chili dipping sauce that accompanies them on the platter. This is a classic done to perfection. I say, Amen! The Crab Rangoon are likewise beautifully prepared. Each crispy house-made wonton, is resplendently stuffed with blue crab and cream cheese. The food at Longitude conjures that mystical Paradise we all yearn to find.
My advice? Close your eyes, imagine yourself on a deserted island, listen for the whispering heart of the Ocean, and go on a trip to wherever your heart longs to be. Check it out, make a memory of your own.
Facebook: East Bay Food Scene
347 14th Street